Why writers need to be more like Katy Perry

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We’re all familiar with Katy Perry, right? The songstress who brought us powerhouse self-empowerment songs such as Roar and Firework and the blast of frivolity that is Last Friday Night. Katy Perry = Top Ten hits, multi millions in the bank and sell out shows wherever she goes.

Katy Perry
Katy Perry by Eva Rinaldi courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/cogT8E https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

But have you ever heard of Katy Hudson? Nope, me either until I happened to stumble across an interesting fact. Katy Perry started her singing career as Katy Hudson who, based in Nashville, sang Christian songs. In 2001 she released her debut album of gospel music, the eponymously titled Katy Hudson. It was a critical success but a commercial failure.

Katy Hudson reinvented herself, came back as Katy Perry (her mother’s maiden name) and the rest, as they say, is history.

Would Katy Hudson ever have made it so big? We’ll never know.

To do a complete one eighty on your name, your image and your music takes guts, but I guess if where you are is not where you want to be and you’ve given it your best shot, why not shake things up by trying something different?

I am as guilty as any other writer of pigeon holing myself into certain genres. We are encouraged to do it from the outset because agents and publishers need to know who we are and what we do so they can file us away in their minds under certain headings. Business wise it makes absolute sense and if you are killing it in the genre you are writing in then happy days.

But it is also important that whilst we know what genres we are writing in we are not defined by them. We always have the ability to step outside our comfort zone and write something different. Taking your mind for a spin in a totally different direction can be liberating.

If your writing career is presently more Katy Hudson than Katy Perry why not step back and look at the bigger picture. Would you be better off writing in a different genre, possibly under a new name? I am all for stickability but nobody wants to be flogging the proverbial dead horse. Would a reimagining relight your fire as a writer?

If you think it would, put on a Katy Perry track and let your imagination fly. All that matters is that you write from the heart and all writers know that good things happen when we do that.

Katy Perry 2
Katy Perry 2 by Gilles Dufresne courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/fQAUdf https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Happy Writing!

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White Lies by Ellie Holmes http://Author.to/EllieHolmes

 

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It’s the Hook not the Book

I promised an update on my recent submission to the literary agent I met at Winchester last summer. She emailed to say she would like a chat over the phone. We subsequently spoke for about 30 minutes. She did not want to take the novel I had submitted to her. She felt it did not hit all the beats of a crime novel and whilst she had enjoyed it and thought the pacing, structure, characterisation and plot were all great, it was not stand out enough to be a break out novel in commercial fiction.

She said if I wanted to write an out and out crime novel she was certain I could do it she just wasn’t sure I wanted to which was very perceptive of her. I love writing about relationships. I particularly like writing about relationships when people from very different walks of life meet and sparks fly. I do not want to shift my focus away from that to hit the beats of a narrower brief.

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Narrow by Claus Zurbig courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/SBBD51 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Whilst I was initially disappointed I quickly bounced back (you have to in this game!). Her words, however, got me thinking. In the trad world it is all about the hook and not the book. If the hook is strong enough that the marketing people can run with it you’re in and anything that does not hit that sweet spot is out, labelled as too much work. It’s all about the hook. A great hook can carry weaker writing across the line. That’s a fact of life in this modern world.

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Hook by Jasleen Kaur courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/8zqogr https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Which leaves writers with a dilemma. It’s a choice artists have always had to make – do you chase the money or do you follow your love of your craft. It’s why Hollywood actors do one big picture for the studios and two independent films for themselves.

The competitive part of me wants to write the hell out of a crime novel now just to prove I can do it but crucially my heart wouldn’t really be in it. I write what I like and I wouldn’t want that to change that.

If you are lucky enough to write what you like and it also hits the sweet spot with the marketing people congratulations. You’ve hit the motherlode.

For the rest of us, I am pleased to say there is a silver lining to this tale. Indie publishing. Indie loves books that have hooks as much as trad publishing does but indie isn’t so narrow minded – cross genre, mash up or niche, indie welcomes them all and if you can devise a half decent marketing plan you might even find an audience as has been the case for me.

Indie gave me a home when no one else would and still does. Indie continues to cherish and reward me. Best of all, indie allows me to be myself and write what I want to write. Who can really ask for more?

book heart
Heart by Kate Ter Haar courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/7AZpB6 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Hold Your Nerve

A few years ago, I had an agent but when I expressed the wish to indie publish my agent and I parted ways. Since then I have indie published two novels and one novella and have sold two novellas to traditional publishers as well as finding success in the field of writing stories for women’s magazine. I went from not published at all to indie+trad published in one year and became a hybrid author.

Fast forward to 2017. I have completed my first crime novel. It’s a bit of a departure from the romantic fiction I have been known for to date and a world away from the light romances I write for the magazines. I have enjoyed the process and thoroughly embraced my dark side. Just as well I’m a Gemini and can write both genres even though they are poles apart.

I think it’s the best thing I’ve ever written but then I’m biased.

Submission Hell

I could very easily have taken the decision to indie publish my crime novel and that may well be the path I end up taking. However, having met with enthusiastic and knowledgeable people at the Winchester Writers’ Festival in the summer I have decided to follow up on the contacts I made there and have sent my freshly polished manuscript off to one of the agents I met.

It is a long while since I have languished in submission hell. I had quite forgot how gruelling it can be. I am luckier than most because I gave the agent exclusivity for a limited period and she has promised to respond by my deadline, I at least know when, roughly, I will hear from her.

That, however, is only part of the pain of submission as authors who have trodden this path so many times before will know. It is the agony of the outcome that awaits, that holds me firmly on its tenterhooks, dancing first one way and then the other as my mood takes me.

Hook
Hook by Thomas Sturm courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-ND 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/RyP7Rc https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

Imagination is a vital asset for a writer to have. It becomes less than an asset in situations like these when my mind spirals away into various scenarios, very few, if any of which are likely to come true.

The Fearlessness of Youth

As is so often the case, I can usually find an analogy for life through sport. In the tennis or ice skating worlds you often find a precocious youngster, brimming with talent and utterly fearless, throwing themselves with abandon into their chosen sport, often vying for the highest prizes imaginable without losing their nerve.

Ice Skating
Ice Skating by Fabricio Zuardi courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/5uhDnD https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Contrast them to the older, wiser, competitors. They have seen it all before, perhaps were once a precocious youngster themselves, but now the years have passed, they have amassed titles and fortunes and yet they still crave more. Now when they compete they cannot mirror the fearlessness of their young competitors, they know only too well the pain of failure, the soul searching questions that accompany it, the sands of time slowly running in the wrong direction.

I am not as young as I once was. I have known my fair share of failure. It is time, once again, to hold my nerve.

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The Flower Seller by Ellie Holmes http://Author.to/EllieHolmes